When a youth-focused brand gets a popular Bollywood star to feature in a campaign which is highly suggestive and reeks of sexism, it is a recipe for disaster. The Danish fashion brand Jack and Jones has faced the ire of consumers on social media for a suggestive outdoor campaign featuring actor Ranveer Singh. The outdoor leg is the extension of the brand’s first-ever India-specific video campaign ‘Don’t Hold Back’.
The ad, which shows the actor dressed in office wear with a woman over his shoulder, watched by a grinning butler on the side, has been criticised as sexist and offensive. The tag line of the ad says, ‘Don’t Hold Back. Take Your Work Home.’
The ad, now pulled by the clothing brand, has been widely slammed on Twitter and earlier this week, Rang De Basanti actor Siddharth posted a strongly-worded tweet dismissing Ranveer’s ad as ‘a new low’ for women’s rights at the work place. “It wasn’t malicious,” Ranveer said in a session with Shekhar Gupta. Ranveer Singh, 31, and Siddharth are both trending on social media now.
‘What were they thinking?’ asked Siddharth in his tweet :
— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) November 20, 2016
Made by advertising agency Marching Ants, the billboard was put up in 12 cities across the country, for promoting brand’s formal range of shirts. The creative features Singh dressed in formal attire carrying a woman on his shoulders about to enter an elevator as the suggestive copy states ‘Don’t Hold Back, take your work home’. The woman, also dressed in Western formals, is shown smiling while the elevator boy, smirking, is shown opening the door.
On 19 November, users on Twitter started posting the pictures of billboard accusing the brand of being utterly sexist and objectionable. The ad was also reported to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the advertising industry watchdog. The company eventually withdrew the ad on 21 November and individually tweeted to the complainants apologizing for causing distress.
— ASCI (@ascionline) November 24, 2016
“As a progressive brand that is loved by youth the world over, we take our responsibility of always being respectful, as seriously as we do our bold attitude. We regret that a billboard of our current campaign has caused people distress. We did not intend to offend anyone, and have discontinued it immediately,” Vineet Gautam, country head, Bestseller India which handles Jack and Jones sales told Mint.
Advertising experts agreed to the Jack and Jones ad being sexist and spoke of how marketers and ad folks address the larger issue of gender stereotyping and objectification of women. Calling the Ranveer Singh billboard ‘distasteful’, Navin Talreja, founding partner of The Womb, an independent advertising agency, said that there is a larger problem with the creative as it encourages harassment in the work place. “It is huge issue in India with very little reporting of it or laws that are stop it. This ad seems to propagate it. There is another point here—that of celebrities who are role models to put a stop to this kind of stuff and have a certain level of social consciousness. Glad Jack & Jones has made the right decision in pulling it,” he said.
The actor has been featured in controversial commercials before – last year, an advertisement for an innerwear brand showed the actor wrestling a rubber shark. After being red-flagged by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, the advertisement was run with a disclaimer. Ranveer’s ads for a noodle brand, which he promotes as ‘Ranveer Ching,’ has also been criticised by some as racist.
Meanwhile, Ranveer launched a new song from his film Befikre yesterday, a rousing wedding anthem titled Khulke Dulke.
— Ranveer Singh (@RanveerOfficial) November 23, 2016
Aditya Chopra’s Befikre, in which Ranveer co-stars with Vaani Kapoor, will hit the screens on December 9.